Identity Crisis! The Hammond: Superior, WI

The Hammond is just across the bridge from Duluth. It has a little split personality problem. It’s a bar. It’s a liquor store. It’s a restaurant and it’s even a little meat shop. I’m not sure it does any of these very well. Which is a pity, really. These things all go pretty well together. Stop off for a quick drink and pick up some meat for the grill and a bottle of something to drink. If you don’t want to cook, eat in the restaurant. Well…the liquor store part is OK. It’s certainly nothing spectacular. It has an OK (there’s that word again) selection but the prices seemed kind of high. The meat counter looks like a sad little after thought. It’s a couple of shelves with a few steaks. Again, they seemed kind of pricey and didn’t really look appetizing. Of course, what I know about what a good steak should look like isn’t much. The bar is one of those dark places where you can’t quite see the person a few seats down which is probably perfect because you aren’t sure  you want to. The bartenders are never very friendly. More interested in talking to the regular at the end of the bar who’s hacking up a lung or doing just about anything other than chatting up clientele. The drinks have either been pretty bad or not too bad.

The decor definitely needs to be updated. I always feel dirty walking in. The bathroom isn’t much better. I’m never sure why we keep going back other than it’s right across the bridge. One caveat: I’ve never eaten in the restaurant, which is upstairs. I’ve heard it’s ‘The’ place to go for steaks in the Twin Ports and maybe one day I’ll make it there for food. If I can get past the bar.

>The Anchor Bar: Superior, WI


Anyone that knows anything about the Twin Ports has heard of The Anchor Bar.  ‘Best burgers ever!’ is usually the tag line.  When we first started going here that was true.  Not only were they awesome, they were/are cheap.  You could get a burger and some damn good fries for under $5.  But lately the burgers have been crap and the fries suck donkey.  I’m not sure what they did to the recipes but they need to change it back.  I’d almost rather have a McDonald’s burger.  And the fries are now a rubbery, tasteless mess of something that was once potato. Maybe.

Doesn’t that look good?  Don’t let it fool you, though.  It’s pretty much $5 I could have spent on something much tastier.

The decor of The Anchor is a cluttered mess.  I’m not sure what look they’re going for but cluttered trash heap is what comes across.  They have stuff hanging from the ceilings and the walls are covered with even more.  Most of it is of a nautical nature but not all. And it is all covered with a thick layer of dust.  Don’t breathe too hard or you might suck something in you wish you hadn’t.

The bartenders have a reputation for being bitchy.  Yup.  They are actually proud of the fact that they come across as bitches.  If they’re busy and feeling overworked, they don’t have a problem being snippy with you.  Something that would never fly in any other service oriented business but it’s something they’ve managed to somehow use to their advantage.  As a result, the pours vary greatly.  If it’s a good day, they’re not bad. If the bartender is feeling tired, cranky, pissed off or whatever the excuse of the day is it’s pretty crappy.

Having said all that let me just add this.  We don’t go here anymore due to the reasons listed above.  When we went to get the pictures for the blog it looked like they maybe had new bartenders so your experience may vary.  But I stand by the shitty food comments.

>Prairie River Retreat, McGregor, MN


This is the other bar in McGregor.  Everyone else seemed to prefer this one.  It was more open, more lit and more busy than The Red Rock.  This is one of those places that plasters dollar bills all over the place.  I’m still trying to figure out why bars do that.  The rest of the interior is pretty sparse.  There are a lot of tables and chairs with the bar being sort of in the middle of it all.  It, too, serves food and we all ended up getting burgers here.  They were ok but pretty forgettable.  The drinks were about the same.  Certainly no better than Red Rock’s.

Ultimately, that’s probably all I have to say about this place.  I was pretty underwhelmed by it.

>Red Rock Bar & Grill, McGregor, MN


Walking in to this bar, it looked like part of it as undergoing construction.  I’m not sure if they were adding a dining room or remodeling it or if it always looked like that.  But it was pretty ‘rustic’.  The bar part wasn’t too bad.  They did have a pinball machine.  Fat Cats, I think it was called and we did amuse ourselves with it for a game or two.  But first…my husband is what we call a Crack Whore.  No, not that kind of crack!  He likes to play pull tabs.  There were a couple of boxes behind the bar and one of them was calling his name.  The bartender, who was also the owner, hadn’t yet unlocked the boxes and when he went to unlock the box, he couldn’t find his keys.  He swore he just had them because it hadn’t been that long since he had opened up.  But they disappeared and disappeared but good.  The couple that we were with insisted on helping him look for them.  So that was fun watching them run around looking for this guys keys.  They probably ‘helped’ him for a good twenty or thirty minutes before they all gave up.  

Other than that, the bartender was nice enough.  He talked to us about the area and a little about his time in the military.  It was sorta cute that he was pretty proud of the new TV he had just installed.  The drinks he poured were decent enough but nothing special.  They do serve food but we didn’t try it.  It’s not actually a bad bar.  I liked this one better than the next one we went to but I was in the minority.

>Bimbo’s Octagon, Side Lake, MN


We saw the lights from Bimbo’s reflecting off the lake from our campground so I knew we’d be checking out this place for sure.  And it really is an octagon.  It has the coolest interior & I wish I had taken pictures of it. One wall is covered with a huge painted on map of the area. Behind the bar is what we dubbed ‘Whorehouse’ wallpaper.  It’s red and has velvety designs on it.  I love that stuff!  There are old photographs, of what I assume are actresses or singers, in a couple of places. And there are a couple of places they’ve exposed the old wood logs that make up the walls.  In the addition they have a stage and even a video game room.

However, the drinks were pretty mediocre. I might as well have been drinking cranberry juice.  And they did something I’ve never seen before.  They charged for the mix separately.  They have a full menu but we weren’t very hungry and just ordered the nachos.  What we got was one of those little paper boats with some tortilla chips and a little cup of salsa and a little cup of salsa.  

I realize they were only $3 or $4 but somehow we expected a little more than that.  

Pete says we probably wouldn’t go back if we’re in the area.  Me?  I’m a little more realistic. 

>Riverside Inn, Side Lake, MN


We went camping a couple of weeks ago and, of course, had to check out the local color.  This is one of two bars that were near the campground.  We decided to check it out after a grueling three mile hike.  Yes, three miles can be grueling when it’s all up and down hills and the temps are in the high 80s.  Blech!  We needed some AC to cool off! When we arrived it was fairly busy being the start of the dinner rush.  We got seats at the end of the bar and waited a few minutes before we saw the bartender.  When she did finally make her appearance we did get our drinks pretty quickly but they were nothing special.

They weren’t as expensive as most MN bars but they weren’t really on the cheap side, either.  Sort of the limbo that made us take notice for a few seconds and then was quickly gone.

We ate breakfast here the next day (I keep forgetting to take pictures of the food!).  Pete didn’t think it was anything special but I liked it. I don’t remember what he got; something with eggs, most likely.  I got the Side Lake Muffin (I think).  Anyway, it’s an English muffin with egg, cheese and ham.  It was served open face so it was like two half sandwiches but it was really tasty.  It came with hashbrowns which were unimpressive and left mostly uneaten.

Decor here is nothing special.  Really forgettable, actually.  You can tell from the picture that the bar is all worn and rather ugly.  The rest of it follows suit. The bathroom sort of made me laugh…you walk down this hallway and the doorway to the women’s bathroom is really narrow. Anyone much bigger than me might have issues getting through it.

All in all, it’s not a bad place.  It just shows it’s age, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

>The Fall Inn


The Fall Inn is tucked away in a residential area and if we hadn’t seen a sign that’s on Howard Gnesen, we probably never would have known it existed. The Fall Inn is pretty well surrounded by trees and deer are frequently spotted in the back. They do have a small deck back there so you can sit outside, but I think it’s mostly where smokers go for their fix.

This used to be one of our favorite places to go. It was close to home, they give a good pour and it was cheap. But they succumbed to one of the three Minnesota curses: it got pricey. Which rather sucks as we can no longer afford to go as often as we’d like. But the staff is friendly and Paul is almost a permanent fixture at the end of the main bar. He’s always up for some bullshitting.

They have a full menu…appetizers, sandwiches, salads, burgers, wraps and whatever else. The burgers and pizza are awesome! They’ve also started having specials. Monday is buck burger, Wednesday is freakin’ cheap pizza. Friday they have a pretty good fish fry. I’m not sure what they have Tuesdays, Thursdays or on the weekends but it’s probably worth looking into.

They have live music most, if not all, Friday nights. They have Monday night cribbage a couple of times a year. They’ve done Fourth of July fireworks. At Christmas they do a cookie exchange and make sure that some of the widowers that come in get Christmas cookies. Seems like one year they had a pot luck picnic. And I’m sure there are other things they do that I’m not thinking of. Like I said…we don’t go as often as we used to.

If you’re looking for an off the beaten path place, it doesn’t get much better than this.